Building a sissy bar for your motorcycle
Going for a long haul? Do you need something to strap the bag to? How about a sissy bar? Not only is it a great anchor for strapping gear, it also keeps the passenger from sliding off the back of your motorcycle. Maybe you haven’t wanted to pay to get it professionally done. This article will explain the tools and materials you will need when building a sissy bar for your motorcycle on your own.
You might be asking yourself, “Why is it called a ‘sissy bar’”? Well, the term comes from “sister bar.” Motorcycles and bicycles have used them for a very long time. Exaggerated versions were popular in the chopper years of the ’60s and ’70s, when some could be over six feet tall. In many applications, this bar also doubles as a strut to hold the rear fender in place, as was the case on most rigid choppers. On most of today’s bikes where the rear suspension is not rigid, the bar is mounted to the fender struts.
Adding a sissy bar gives you a lot of room to be creative, if you have some welding skills to work with. Making this type of bar is sort of like blacksmithing, but don’t let that scare you off; it’s not as hard as it may seem. Check out the introduction to welding here. The level of difficulty will vary depending on how wild your design is.
If there is welding involved, it is crucial that it be done right, especially since passenger safety is at stake. Sissy bars that act as fender struts will be holding the weight of a passenger and need to be strong. DO NOT attempt to make one if you are skeptical of your welding and torch skills.
Materials are fairly simple for this project. Round or square mild steel or stainless steel rod will be your main ingredient. Some sheet metal and assorted bungs may come into play as well.
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The tools needed are:
- angle grinder
- a welder
- an oxy/acetylene torch
- thin, bendable wire
- a good metal worktable
If building a sissy bar that doubles as a fender strut, you must measure the length of the following components: from the axle plate to the fender and then to the desired height of the bar, back down to the fender and to the other axle plate. This will give you a rough idea of how long a piece of rod you will need. Drill and tap a hole to mount a bung for the end of the bar at the axle plate. Bolt the bung at the axle plate and weld a bung to the fender. Bend the thin wire as a sort of guide to make the real thing. You can use your measurements as reference points. The wire is now your template.
Take the wire template and create a jig on a metal worktable. Small pieces of pipe or old sockets can be used as guides against which you can bend the rod. They can be welded to the table to the points where the rod will be bent around. If the top of the sissy bar is coming to a point, no guide is needed. If the table jig is not available to you, you can use a vise to bend the bar. Heat the bar with a torch and get it red hot. This will make it very easy to bend.
Using welding gloves, you can grab the metal and bend it to your desired measurement. Test-fit the whole thing on the motorcycle and trim and bend accordingly to get it to fit perfectly. Weld the bottoms to the bungs located on the axle plates. Weld the bungs on the fenders to the rod as well. The whole bar can then be unbolted and painted, polished or plated.
Swing arm bikes
Building a sissy bar on a swing arm-style bike is even easier. Purchase sissy bar plates as a mounting point for the bar or make them easily with a little patience and some thick gauge sheet metal. The metal is usually cut into an L-shape so that the two rear fender mount bolts can pass through the bar mounts as well. Just as before, use a wire to bend to a desired shape of the bar. The wire can then be measured and used as a guide, as before. Heat the bar and bend to the desired shape. Weld the bar to the mounts. Use bungs to make it completely removable. As noted above, the whole sissy bar can then be removed and painted, polished or plated.
A pad can be attached as a backrest for the rear passenger, or a seat can be upholstered to cover the whole sissy bar. The possibilities are endless and it is all up to your imagination. Square bar can be twisted like a wrought iron railing. Taillights can also be fused into the design of the bar. Whether it is for style or purpose, this bar can be very versatile. With some limited metal knowledge and a little welding skill, a piece of your bike can be created by you!
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